The city of Regina continues its steadfast endeavor to rid the drinking water infrastructure of lead pipes, with a recent decision from the Executive Committee ensuring progress reports every two years.
Citizen demands for safer drinking water are prominently echoed within the city, stirring up action from the authorities. Recently, the city council outlined their ambitious plans at the Executive Committee meeting, which aim to entirely remove all lead service connection pipes within the confinements of the city.
Approximately 3,000 homes in Regina currently rely on these lead connectors for their water supply. As part of the efforts to eradicate these, the city put into motion a timeline for its Lead Service Connection Management Program in 2021. Designed to culminate in 2036, the comprehensive program carries an estimated cost of $36 million.
Mayor Sandra Masters explains that the weighty cost to rate payers and the decision to spread it over a 15-year duration rather than a condensed 10 or 5-year period was a contributing factor in the original decision-making process. “The previous decision was to reduce the replacement cycle from 30 to 15 years, and this is the directive currently being followed by the administration,” Mayor Masters clarified. In the meantime, she confirmed, the interim solution is to use filters.
The Executive Committee, in its Wednesday meeting, made a further decision to only require updates on the replacement progress biannually, rather than annually. Patricia Elliot, a delegate who was present at the city hall meeting, expressed her disappointment with this development. She expressed criticism of the council not prioritizing the management of highly toxic substance in the drinking water. “The issue unfortunately has been politicized by leaders, who avoid public discussions citing cost reasons. One cannot put a price tag on democracy,” she vocalized.
Homes built prior to 1960, which used lead piping in their plumbing systems, are particularly susceptible to this issue. This problem came to widespread attention in 2019 after investigative journalism by Concordia University’s Institute revealed Regina, along with Moose Jaw and Saskatoon, to have some of the highest levels of lead in tap water nationally.
According to Health Canada, the maximum acceptable concentration of lead in drinking water must not exceed 0.005 milligrams per litre. The Saskatchewan Health Authority identified pregnant women and children under the age of six as the highest risk groups for lead poisoning.
Although the human body can expel approximately half of the lead ingested through kidneys or intestines, children’s developing organs cause lead to accumulate in the blood and soft tissues, rendering them more vulnerable.
The city council is predicted to approve the committee’s recommendations at their meeting on September 13.